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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Dirty Little Jobs and Interruptions

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Most times when a call comes in the person answering the phone is myself. This is a simple matter that the office staff is small (SVC, Leanna, Mike Sparks, Joel Shutts, and myself), and someone has to be the person who answers the phone. So it is one of my duties. Mind you, I do not want people to not call, but of course every call is just one in a series of interruptions that happens throughout my day. (Again, I am not trying to keep people from calling, we do try to serve our customers as best we can.) Sometimes the call is an order, sometimes it is a rules question, sometimes it is asking for advice on how to start a game company or get a game published (these latter I usually have to pass off to SVC).

My day, however, is not just interrupted by phone calls (the majority of which are computers trying to sell us something, the occasional wrong number, and various personal calls, i.e., reminders of appointments to see the dentist). While I am busy in my office, Mike Sparks is frequently busy packing orders, or packing products to pack in orders. In an effort to keep mistakes down, whenever Mike has products packed, he has to come get me, dragging me from my office and computer, to do spot checks to make sure the products are properly packed. Mike does good work, but he is only human, and sometimes I find something. (This is because even Mike sometimes gets interrupted and can lose his place and not get properly back on track.) An example was a spot check of Klingon Borders where I found that Mike had forgotten to put in the rosette maps. But then neither of us is perfect, and it takes both of us for something to be packed incorrectly. (Mike seldom makes a mistake, most of those I catch, but sometimes something manages to slip through.) At one point I (no one else, the error was entirely mine) packed eight Federation & Empire sets, but managed to leave out the rulebooks (out of about 64 games I was packing). Those were only caught because the weight of the rulebook is noticeable, and when you pick up a box for shrink-wrapping, it is noticeably lighter than the one just before it.

As noted, Mike also packs orders. And when he has all of the orders pulled (or as many as he can fit in the packing space without getting them confused), he again has to come get me and drag me to his "kingdom" to individually inspect each order. Again, Mike does good work, and I catch most of his mistakes (few as they are), but even so, sometimes the system fails (recent example, a customer ordered some rulebooks, but Mike pulled SSD books, and I did not notice, so we had to ship the rulebooks when we found the error).

Then there is SVC. I am his sounding board, so from time to time he will ask me to come over to his office to discuss a proposal or a rules question. Or discuss art submissions or story submissions. Or various other problems in the day.

Sometimes Leanna will need me to do something. I am, for example, the guy who does the mail runs (sometimes five times a week, sometimes just two or three times a week) taking orders that have to sent by post office, and often the bank deposits (usually combined with a mail run). Frequently the mail run is combined with a visit to our off-site warehouse to make sure that it is secure (no one has broken in), a few extra minutes out of my day, but only on days I do a mail run, and only if Mike Sparks has not had to go by the warehouse himself that day. I am also often the guy who goes out to deliver a Federation & Empire map to be laminated, and later pick it up (not always, Leanna did the most recent one for example). I also serve as Leanna's backup to process orders.

And, often when the door opens to the outside world, I am the one that responds to see who is entering our building. Often it is the guys from Unicopy coming to work on the printers, and I may need to speak with them in regards specific problems (usually a result of a briefing by Leanna if she had to leave to run an errand).

And of course I get tasked to write blogs and am always trying to think of something to say even during otherwise quiet moments.

At least three times a week (a schedule we try to adhere to) we have company meetings at the conference table. There are "monthly" responsibilities also (making sure the van still starts and running it for fifteen minutes twice a month for example).

Add in the occasional trip to the "facilities", various Emails (both questions out of the blue and my own begging for reports or responding with how reports were dealt with, processing scenario submissions, etc.) and a lot of my day is tied up not working on new products.

It is all stuff that has to be done (we have to serve you, our customers, or there is little point to doing any of it), but doing real productive (as in new products) work is often something that has to be done in the loopholes between the various interruptions. And sad to say, sometimes the interruptions break my train of thought (like being in the middle of working on an SSD, and when I get back, I have to scan the whole SSD trying to figure out where I was at the time I was interrupted, or being in the middle of writing a monster article, and now I do not know what it was I was about to cover in it, or where I was in a scenario background, or what problem I just spotted in the fiction story I was proofing, or . . .)

They are all jobs that have to be done, someone has to do them, but often the interruptions cost productive time.